NL weekend’s boffo thanks to ‘Friday’

Sequel scores $17 mil, ousts 'Little'

New Line can’t wait for next Friday.

The mini-major’s riding its strongest B.O. horse since last summer’s “Austin Powers” sequel, as the low-budget pic “Next Friday” scored a resounding win for the four-day Martin Luther King Day frame.

Hip-hop comedy starring Ice Cube and John Witherspoon, which cost just $9.5 million to produce, took in an estimated $17 million on 1,103 screens over the long weekend. Cume is $21.6 million.

“Next,” a sequel to 1995’s “Friday,” ousted “Stuart Little” from the top spot it’s occupied in three of its five weekends of release. Sony put “Stuart’s” four-day total at $12.6 million from 3,092 theaters.

Disney was the only major studio open for business Monday, so weekend gross tallies won’t be made official until today. A few distribs reporting estimates Sunday opted not to do so Monday.

The order of finish for the top five films didn’t change, with Universal’s “The Hurricane” holding onto third place and Sony’s “Girl, Interrupted” retaining fourth. “Hurricane” collected $10.7 million in 1,454 locations, while “Girl” grabbed $9.6 million in 1,902. Warner Bros. culled $8.9 million for “The Green Mile.”

The B.O. numbers may not have been completely firm, but New Line execs got some persuasive data Monday: exit poll results on “Next Friday.”

Surveys taken Friday night in Detroit; Salt Lake City; and Orlando, Fla.; found auds were 46% black, 30% white and 15% Latino. A startling 96% had seen the original “Friday,” with 48% of them owning it on video or DVD.

“We all felt it was going to cross over, but not to this degree,” said New Line distrib chief David Tuckerman. “We positioned ourselves to take advantage.”

Other distribs reporting included DreamWorks, which estimates “Galaxy Quest” totaled $8 million to bring its cume to $47 million. MGM’s “Supernova” debuted with $6.6 million, which should rank it seventh for the frame.

Disney figured on a $6.5 million frame for “Toy Story 2.”

Miramax’s “The Cider House Rules” failed to chart in the top 10, but it’s only on 817 screens. Drama grossed an estimated $3.3 million for the four-day period. Minimajor sees two-screen return of “Holy Smoke” summoning $40,000.

USA’s “Topsy-Turvy” saw auds swell over the holiday, pulling in $137,000, or $22,833 on each of six screens. Three-day screen average was $18,426.

Mouse House’s “Fantasia/2000,” a feature foray into Imax theaters, grossed an estimated $2.6 million in the U.S. and Canada. Its worldwide cume after about two weeks is $13.6 million.

Also on large-format screens, “Mysteries of Egypt,” co-produced by National Geographic Television and Destination Cinema, cleared $50 million domestic.

Friday’s B.O. slate features the wide launch of Miramax’s “Down to You” and a wide expansion of Disney’s “Play It to the Bone.”

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